The Corner

The Serfdom Scare

So I sat down with The New Republic at lunch, wanting to look over the review of Angus Burgin’s new book on free-market economics by Nobel Prize-winner Robert M. Solow. (Last week, I podcasted with Burgin.) In a discussion of Hayek, Solow writes: “The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. … [I]t would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into ‘serfdom.’”

Minutes before, I had read something else just a few pages away in the same issue: Timothy Noah urging President Obama to ban anyone under the age of 18 from working in grain bins and silos–including teenagers working on their own family farms.

Does regulating the chores of farm families on their own property meet Solow’s definition of serfdom? Maybe not, but it does suggest that Hayek was right to sound the alarm about “standard regulatory interventions” long ago.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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